Smart cities are urban developments that integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in order to manage functions such as the management of schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services.
Smart cities are built through digital policies and strategies that are people-centered, tapping into technological innovations such as smart grids, smart government and smart citizenship in order to make life easier for residents.
The goal of building a smart city is to improve the quality of life through the application of informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of service delivery and meet residents' needs. ICT allows city officials to interact directly with the community and the city infrastructure, so they are better able to monitor what is happening in the city in order to make residents' lives more comfortable.
Data collected through the various technologies deployed is then processed and analyzed, and the information gathered is used to tackle inefficiencies.
New Internet of Things (IoT) applications that leverage ubiquitous connectivity, big data and analytics are enabling Smart City initiatives all over the world. These new applications introduce tremendous new capabilities such as the ability to remotely monitor, manage and control devices, and to create new insights and actionable information from massive streams of real-time data.
As a result, IoT offerings are transforming cities by improving infrastructure, creating more efficient and cost effective municipal services, enhancing public transportation, reducing traffic congestion, and keeping citizens safe and more engaged in the community.
In order to realize the full value of IoT, cities must not deliver disparate smart city point solutions, but rather enable a secure and scalable IoT infrastructure that integrates multiple systems.
In the end it all comes to making the right strategic choices, selecting the right partners, and leveraging best of technologies to quickly deliver the right smart city solutions that will result in immediate value and deliver a secure and scalable platform to unlock continuous new value.
The concept of smart cities is growing prominence in Africa, pushing business and government to re-think solutions to urban problems and improve living standards through the deployment of technology and high-quality physical infrastructure. With advancement of the convergence of communications and analytics, these pointers are helping utilities run more efficiently and support the creation smart urban spaces offering greater access to Wi-Fi and the high-speed broadband services that support greater knowledge sector development.
Making a city truly 'smart' needs a lot of planning, with a number of key pointers that need to be considered in the African context:
- Advancing high speed telecommunications networks and infrastructure;
- The real assimilation of smart-orientated thinking into policy, master planning and delivery;
- The need for Africa-centric baseline data in key markets; and
- Pilot programs to guide the establishment of smart cities and the uptake of smart utility.
Numerous opportunities exist in cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town South Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, as well as other hubs such as Nigeria, Egypt, Rwanda and Ghana where technology advances are increasingly able to support smart innovation districts that can grow into smart cities.
If you look at Africa today,there are major infrastructure projects going on to generate and manage water and power supply. It is equally evident that African cities are expanding rapidly, putting more pressure on plans and infrastructure.
The African middle class is rising steadily, bringing with it a growing demand for improved services and world class infrastructure that simplifies their commuting, work, consumption of resources and relationships with utility providers.
Smart cities can help the continent to leap forward through the deployment of technologies and leveraging on advances in data analytics. What we need now is basic infrastructure, flexible network-sharing opportunities and universal interoperability, which are all vital and cost effective foundations on which to build a Smart City and a more efficient future. Without these, our current cities will not survive and future ones cannot exist.
The priority should be on creating partnerships, securing investments for long term gains, and the application of common practices learned from other smart city initiatives in order to ensure wider digital and financial inclusion.
Smart cities need good internet connectivity. Government investment in ICT will be vital, as well as support from both the private sector and communities. All these parties must be willing to drive a partnership that balances interests so as to achieve an inclusive outcome for everyone.
As it stands now, African governments are overwhelmed by growing complexities within IT and operational systems, and the lack of supporting regulations and policies keeps them handicapped.
Cities in Africa need to identify the gaps that exist at present, as well as the critical capabilities required to enable Smart Cities to truly take shape. They will need to make the technical and financial investments required, and take action to effectively implement data-driven decision making.
African governments will need to meet their needs using the economic resources available to them, investing in new technologies that will simplify the lives of their citizens. The focus should be on the implementation of Smart City goals in order to address the demands of their citizens while preparing for future needs as well.